First Steps Back
The Inova Rehabilitation Center (www.inova.org/IRC) is now offering certain patients with spinal cord injuries the opportunity to learn how to walk again using an innovative new technology. The ReWalk exoskeleton clinic, which began in April at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital, is the first available in Northern Virginia.
“Inova is opening the ReWalk clinic because we strive to provide world-class rehabilitation,” says Jennifer Melnyk, PT, DPT, NCS, of IMVH.
ReWalk is a wearable robotic exoskeleton that provides powered hip and knee motion, allowing individuals with spinal cord injuries to stand upright, walk and turn. The system allows for independent, controlled walking while mimicking the natural gait patterns of the legs. Traditionally, it takes time and hard work through intense physical therapy for patients to stand or do pre-gait training; ReWalk’s timeline is different. “The goal with ReWalk is to get patients to stand and walk in the equipment the first time they use it,” says Melnyk.
Before the clinic’s opening, five physical therapists, including Melnyk, completed formal training with a ReWalk clinical specialist and two volunteer patients with spinal cord injuries. They learned how to work with the device and about the specific requirements for patient eligibility for the clinic.
There is a height and weight requirement for the exoskeleton equipment, which is only available for adults. Patients also have to have a certain degree of range of motion in their hips, knees and ankles; have good upper body strength; and must be able to tolerate a level of standing before taking part in the clinic. As the program ramps up, Inova plans to hold at least one clinic per month.
The ReWalk exoskeleton equipment is different from anything she has ever worked with, Melnyk says. “It’s exciting to be a part of an organization that’s so committed to working with this technology,” she says. “This new program allows us (IMVH) the opportunity to offer ReWalk directly to the patients we serve in our community.”
Want to try ReWalk?
Are you a spinal cord patient who is interested in participating in the ReWalk exoskeleton clinic? Contact ReWalk clinical specialist Jackelyn Lane at 401-234-3447 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Potential candidates will be referred to an Inova Rehabilitation Center physical therapist for evaluation. To learn more about the ReWalk technology visit rewalk.com.